7 of the best winter sun escapes from the U.K.
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Now that the Christmas excitement has died down, the cold, dark days may begin to feel tiresome. The dreary weather drags on, and if you’re dreaming of a sun holiday to escape the U.K. winter blues, you aren’t alone. Here are the best destinations to visit to get you through the dregs of winter.
Shopping and sunshine make the winter blues disappear — two reasons to head to the megacity of Dubai. 2019 saw the arrival of a few exciting hotels: the W Dubai Palm Jumeriah, which has a sprawling selection of connected infinity pools, and the Andaz Dubai The Palm, which features the special Ora boutique spa complete with an adults-only pool.
And don’t worry. If you’re sunburned and need a break, Dubai’s giant malls (you can even check your luggage there) provide plenty of indoor fun, including indoor skiing. Just remember that alcohol is expensive in Dubai, so this is the ideal destination if you’re planning to do a dry January or February.
Getting there: The obvious arrival choice is flying with Emirates, which has more flights from the U.K. to the UAE than any other airline — 11 per day from hubs like Heathrow (LHR), Gatwick (LGW) and Stansted (STN). Using points, plan to pay 62,500 Emirates Skywards points one-way in business and 85, 000 Emirates Skywards points one-way in first class. If you need to top off your Emirates points, remember that the Skywards program is a U.K. American Express Membership Rewards programme transfer partner.
Though it won’t be super hot in Marrakech in January or February, you can expect pleasantly warm temperatures with highs typically hovering around the 20 degree Celsius mark. What makes this Moroccan city so special is the juxtaposition between busy and calm.
Hectic souks and frantic traffic mixed with lingering scents of spices and shouts of vendors can be overwhelming, but the serenity you’ll find relaxing on rooftop of your riad or inhaling essential oils at the hammam spa will perfectly complement the craziness. And if you have a small stash of Marriott points, the Category 2 Le’Meriden N’Fis is an affordable points redemption with rates starting at just 10,000 points per night.
Getting there: Fly low-cost to Marrakech (RAK) via airlines like Ryanair and EasyJet from various U.K. hubs for as low as £17. British Airways also operates single flights from London (LGW and LHR) for 8,500 Avios off-peak/10,000 Avios peak in Euro Traveller and 17,000 Avios off-peak/20,000 Avios peak in Club Europe.
We’re anxiously awaiting the opening of the Six Senses Fort Bawara in Rajasthan, which is set for early 2020. The property, which was once a 14th Century fort including a palace and two temples, has been renovated to include 48 suites, a 30,000-square-foot Six Senses Spa with Ayurveda program (including a fitness center) and two swimming pools.
For even more heat, head south to the new Four Seasons Bengaluru, where private guides can offer you in-depth tours of the city before heading further south to Kerala, known for its tropical beaches and mystic canal backwaters. If you’d prefer the familiarity of the well-trodden Goa, the city celebrates Carnival from 22 to 25 February 2020, an epic festival both locals and tourists can enjoy.
Getting there: There are various ways to get from London to Mumbai (BOM) nonstop: Air India (Star Alliance), British Airways (Oneworld) and Virgin Atlantic. Both BA and Air India fly nonstop to Delhi (DEL). Southern destinations like Goa (GOI), Bengaluru (BLR) and Kochi (COK) are accessible from the above hubs by several airlines, many of them low-cost, such as AirAsia India, SpiceJet, GoAir and IndiGo.
Canary Islands, Spain
This list wouldn’t be complete without British fan favorite the Canary Islands. Visitors can join in with Carnival celebrations on the islands of Tenerife (19 February to 1 March, 2020) or Gran Canaria (7 Febrauary to 1 March 2020).
For more tranquility during your holiday, consider the long, sandy beaches of Fuerteventura, the volcanic vineyards of Lanzarote, sustainable tourism in El Hierro, stargazing on La Palma or subtropical forests in La Gomera.
Related reading: How to know which of the 7 Canary Islands is right for your trip
Getting there: Use British Airways Avios for the flight, which is just under five hours from the U.K. BA flies to the islands of Lanzarote (ACE), Tenerife (TFS) and Gran Canaria (LPA) from various U.K. hubs. Expect to spend 8,500 Avios off-peak/10,000 Avios peak in Euro Traveller and 17,000 Avios off-peak/20,000 Avios peak in Club Europe. If you don’t have a balance of Avios, airlines like Ryanair, EasyJet and Jet2 fly to many of the islands from a number of U.K. hubs beyond just London.
Whether it be the towering pyramids of Giza, a cruise along the River Nile or sand and sun along the Red Sea, winter and early spring are the perfect times to visit Egypt. Although it’s considered the high season, tourist crowds tend to die down a little after the busy Christmas season. March and April are especially nice months to visit, when the weather isn’t uncomfortably hot and you won’t fight as many crowds to see the best sites.
Don’t forget Alexandria, a city that’s not quite as popular as hubs like Luxor or Sharm el-Sheikh but is actually an incredible alternative to the Red Sea for divers and tourists alike. You’ll spot remnants of sphinxes and ancient columns — both above and below water.
Getting there: Fly to Cairo (CAI) on EgyptAir, a Star Alliance carrier, which operates two flights daily from London (LHR). Or use your BA Avios to fly on a British Airways 787 for the almost five-hour flight at the following redemption rates:
- World Traveller off-peak: 10,000 (12,500 peak)
- World Traveller Plus off-peak: 20,000 (25,000 peak)
- Club World off-peak: 31,250 (37,500 peak)
- First off-peak: 42,500 (50,000 peak)
If you’re tired of the U.K. rain, head to Muscat, Oman’s capital — it’s one of the driest cities in the world. It’s perfect for a beach getaway, desert adventures and exploring Arabian culture — beyond the shopping malls of spots like UAE’s Dubai. Active travellers can camp under the stars, hike through wadis, go dune-bashing in the desert or dive or snorkel with whale sharks.
Oman has a lengthy coast, and if you’re heading over for a quick sunny getaway, the beaches near Muscat are both easily accessible and gorgeous. If you have more time, try the northern beaches of Musandam (actually closer to Dubai than Muscat), which has fjord-like inlets called khors, or Ras Al Hadd, home of the endangered green turtle.
Getting there: The best way to arrive is with Oman Air, which flies twice daily between London Heathrow to Muscat (MCT). British Airways flies the same route, but only twice per week. Check out TPG U.K. reviews of this flight in both economy and first class before booking.
Besides making the TPG hot list as one of the top 20 destinations to visit in 2020, Ethiopia seems to on everyone’s radar — the World Travel & Tourism Council stated that tourism grew by almost 50% in 2018. Addis Ababa is a cultural mecca for those into history, music, dance and, of course, haggling at markets — though you might not really need to, as the country is definitely the most affordable destination on this list.
Foodies will be in heaven dipping the famous injera bread (a spongy Ethiopian bread made from teff grain) into thick stews and curries set upon a gebeta platter. Beyond the frantic city of Addis Ababa, you can tour the country’s coffee and tea plantations or visit Bale Mountains National Park hoping to spot an endangered Ethiopian wolf. Or head north to Lalibela (also known as the New Jerusalem), which features several ancient churches chiseled out of rock.
Getting there: Star Alliance partner Ethiopian Airlines is the fastest-growing airline in Africa. The carrier operates 10 flights per week from London Heathrow to Addis Ababa (ADD). Make sure to get your e-visa online prior to travelling.
Whether it be an exotic escape to India’s backwaters, a shopping extravaganza in Dubai or a long weekend in the Canary Islands, a little winter sun can go a long way. And before you know it, spring will be here. Happy winter travels!
Featured image of by Alberto J. Espiñeira Francés/Alesfra/Getty.